Restoring America's Moral Foundation | Opinion

There was a time not long ago when America united around a core of common values. They were not partisan, but foundational beliefs shared by Whigs, Federalists, Democratic-Republicans, Democrats and Republicans.

Americans believed that justice should be universal, not dictatorial, and that the role of judges was to decide the law, not determine it. Peaceful articulation of opposing views was appropriate; repression of unpopular opinion, much less violence, rioting or open warfare, was not. Those who placed their lives on the line to defend our lives, homes and property were acknowledged as America's finest, and the goal of internal affairs was to root out bad actors, not to punish officers for defending themselves against violent assailants.

None of these values were first promoted by modern thinkers. Neither did we acquire them from Romans, Greeks, Vikings or Visigoths. The Founding Fathers found them in the teachings given to Moses in the Bible. No one can deny that these and other values common to first-world civilizations—such as life, education, family and social responsibility—are ancient.

Yet none of the aforementioned can be assumed today, and the blame for that can be summed up in one word: progressivism. The American experiment with that philosophy has proven to be a dangerous failure—and the more it is promoted, the more it is incumbent upon decent Americans to condemn it. It is not a step forward, but a regression to more primitive times.

Some of us realized this when leftists decided that sentient human beings, able to recognize and be comforted by the sound of their parents' voices and mothers' heartbeats, were merely collections of cells, which women were free to discard without calling it murder.

For others, it was when marriage was ripped from its biblical definition, and redefined to include any pair of individuals who wish to union. For others still, it was when doctors stopped providing psychological care, and instead encouraged the introduction of drugs and outright mutilation of the body as methods of solving unresolved dysphoria—even in prepubescent children.

To oppose these things is not to harbor a phobia. To want to protect and care for those affected by these phenomena is anything but hate. Yet those who promote these "progressive" ideas happily denounce anyone who clings to traditional values as homophobic, transphobic or even racist.

All of this is nonsense. The partisan environment in Washington is not a bipartisan problem; rather, it results from one side claiming that the same ideas they themselves backed a generation or two ago are today forms of hate speech. This makes civil discourse impossible.

In 2000, Senator Joe Lieberman was the Democrats' nominee to be the vice president. By 2006, the leftists in the Democratic Party primaried him out—and he was re-elected because supporters created "Connecticut for Lieberman," and members of both parties rallied behind him. So there is hope.

But also in 2000, Senate candidate Hillary Clinton declared that marriage was between a man and a woman. In 2016, had she not reversed herself, she would have lost the Democrats' presidential nomination. And that is a problem.

"Absentee voting" sign in South Carolina
"Absentee voting" sign in South Carolina Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

Where do you draw the line? When is your Rubicon crossed?

Do you believe children should be denied foster care, and be left in group homes, because any provider who requires prospective parents be in a traditional marital union must be denied a license? Progressives claim to believe this—see Fulton v. Philadelphia, to be argued at the Supreme Court this Wednesday.

Do you believe that a person who believes that G-d is watching over him or her and expecting a higher standard of behavior should be disqualified from high office, such as a seat on the Supreme Court? The Constitution expressly prohibits a religious test, yet progressives unabashedly employed one anyway against now-Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

Do you believe that women in a women's shelter should be forced to share rooms with biological males who claim to be women—and that if a woman refuses to do so, she should be the one expelled to go sleep on the streets? Yes, this really happened—see Downtown Hope Center v. Anchorage.

Do you believe that police must stop policing, enabling shootings that primarily kill young people of color, prevent firefighters and EMTs from reaching their homes, and open the doors for looting and arson of their businesses? I live in Baltimore, where the murder rate has skyrocketed ever since police were prosecuted for doing their job—and the victims, needless to say, are overwhelmingly of color. To progressives, those are apparently not the Black Lives that Matter.

Oh, and one more: Do you have a more favorable opinion of Cuba than Israel? According to a recent YouGov poll, this is now true of the average member of the Democratic Party.

The most important issue facing us on Tuesday is not whether the effort to fight COVID has been botched or brilliant. It's not about the unprecedented pace of economic recovery, or even the achievements for peace in the Middle East—much less about either candidates' character flaws. It is about whether America's moral foundation will be strengthened or further damaged, possibly beyond repair. This, too, has happened before.

Rabbi Yaakov Menken is the managing director of the Coalition for Jewish Values.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.